How We Improved Our Family Holidays

How We Improved Our Family Holidays

The family holiday can be the holy grail of the year. Something we work toward, look forward to, count down to, save for, all for those two weeks. Two weeks that yours to do with as you please, without the house to keep in order, school runs, and bosses to answer to. No pressure then.

However, if you are parent you will know all to well that kids don’t always feel the holiday vibes. Not like us adults. Everyday is a holiday for the little people eh? There can be real merit in the phrase ‘same sh*t, different location’. Take my word for it. Like it or not, once the tiny terrors join your family your holidays will never be the same again, at least not for a good 18 years anyway.

In the two and a half years we have been parents we have embarked on a fair few getaways, well into the double figures. They haven’t all been a success, neither have they all been a failure. They have however been very different. Our travel needs have changed, as have our expectations and what we now consider to be a good or successful holiday. Through some serious trial and error we have found ways to make the most of our family holiday. To try to get it back to what it should be – an enjoyable break for all and not just the same sh*t different location.

Without doubt, the biggest tip I could give to any parents holiday with children, particularly young children (although granted it applies irrespective of age) would be this – choose your accommodation carefully.

We have stayed in hotels, all-inclusive, half board, one bedroom, two bedroom. We have stayed in self catering apartments, private villas, private apartment rentals even lodges. We have covered our bases on this front.

Without doubt the best, and most enjoyable holidays we have had are those were we opted for private rentals. The reasons are fourfold:

The knowledge
When you are booking you can choose exactly what villa/apartment/house you are renting. You know precisely where it is, what it looks like, the amenities (wifi!!), pretty much anything you need to know can be found out. When staying in hotels you are often given your room at pot luck. In the past we have been given a room at the bottom of 4 flights of stairs, with two prams and no lift. Go figure.

You can choose whether you want to be on one level, whether you want a ground floor or top floor. Whether you want 3 bed or 2, 1 bath or 3. You can choose to have a private or shared pool. A Pool table, hot tub, BBQ, Satellite TV channels, a washing machine (sounds the opposite of holiday I know, but it is actually darn handy to have) – your options are greatly increased.

Our private pool in Lanzarote

The garden of a villa we rented in lanzarote. To the right was more garden space and a pool table to keep the teen happy. Something for everyone.

The space
This is a massive bonus for us. Clearly houses/apartments etc are generally bigger than hotel rooms. At the very least you will certainly be paying less for more space in a private rental than a hotel room. You have bedrooms – yes plural. You won’t need to cram cots and restless babies into your room, or drag the sofa bed out every night for your older child who drew the short straw. You have bathrooms, living space, dining areas and a kitchen! Never underestimate the need for kitchen, when you have children, or at least a fridge and a kettle. Chances are you will also have, or can opt to have, outdoor space. In our last private rental we had it in droves, it was a godsend. So much so we returned to it. Allowing the kids to be able to run about on the grass in the sun was priceless – for them and us.

Our outdoor space

The outdoor space in a ground floor apartment we rented in the Mar Menor. To the left is a large shared pool.

The noise
Damn kids, and babies, can be loud. So can a shouty mum who is pleading with her kids to stop running on the concrete floor with wet feet. I am 99% sure that last time we stayed in a hotel our neighbours requested to move, probably due to the noise. It was a two bed ‘apartment’. We had a bedroom, one baby in the other room and one in the living room – we literally couldn’t fit him in anywhere else. He was an early riser and I suspect this was heard by our neighbours. We did our utmost to limit their racket, but guys, noise travels. Our last 3 private rentals have either been detached or as they aren’t part of a hotel are generally sound proof. It is considerably less stressful.

So you might be thinking private rentals don’t offer some of the key things that you might look for in a holiday, such as prepared meals, maid service, kids club, night-time entertainment. Well that is not always the case. We recently stayed on the Mar Menor Golf Resort in Murcia. It is a huge gated complex with private villas and a large hotel. During the summer months, the hotel runs a kids club open to all and nightly entertainment. There is also ‘El Boulevard’ just outside the complex, which again has a mini disco, and a variety of bars and restaurants, where guess what, people prepare and clean away your meals for you. You can see what I am on about and gander some excellent private rentals on the Mar Menor by clicking here.

Destinations such as Cyprus are another example that cater perfectly for families who are looking for the best of both worlds. Protaras strip at night offers a plethora of family entertainment for all ages and a large variety of bars and restaurants. Yet you can rent some absolutely stunning private villas, giving you all the space, peace and amenities you require.

So what about the cost? Oh it sounds lovely renting a villa, if you can afford it. Well actually the prices are not what you might expect. You are not paying to stay in a hotel after all, you are not contributing toward their bills, running costs and staff pay packet. Often you will find owners simply want to cover their outgoings for the property. Of course you will expect a hike in prices depending on the season but there is a private rental out there for all budgets but moreover it will most likely be comfortably in your budget.

What do you think? Have you ever rented or considered a private rental for your holiday? I would love to hear from you. If it is something you would be interested in then some of these may be of interest to you.



Diary of an imperfect mum
My Petit Canard

This is a collaborative post, however the content and opinions are entirely my own.


  1. March 8, 2017 / 5:41 am

    Great tips – accomodation can make or break a trip!

    I have a new family travel linky running 1st-7th every month btw #fearessfamtrav which this post would be perfect for if you are interested

  2. March 8, 2017 / 6:19 am

    I just need a passport for R and me now… I swear by private rental or camping now we have a kid if makes it easier and stress free 😀

  3. March 8, 2017 / 6:31 am

    Great tips, the accommodation is so important. We always prefer to be in self catering apartments. We’ll have one meal out a day and then eat our other meals in the apartment. We might like eating out for every meal but it can be hard on kids and stressful if they are getting tired and loud. Having a washing machine also means we can pack light which, if you’ve ever been stranded at an airport with kids and all your luggage, is a godsend!

  4. March 8, 2017 / 8:33 am

    Planning and accommodation are the two most important aspects when planning a family holiday. Lets face it, if the kids aren’t happy, no one is happy.

  5. March 8, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    Great advice – we’ll be holidaying with a baby this year so will take this all on board! #familyfunlinky

  6. March 8, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    We travel a lot too and have also learnt never too stay on a hotel or B & B because if the noise and space factor we always choose an apartment. Totally agree with all of your points! #familyfunlinky

  7. March 8, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    I agree Sarah – I also get stressed with the hotel mealtimes, lack of choice etc so much prefer to have some cooking facilities to use at least for brekkie, lunch etc and then have a choice about eating out or not in the eve….. And if my children are displaying poor table manners sometimes…..nobody else aha to see it!

  8. March 8, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    A private rental sounds ideal. We like to go all inclusive and not to have to carry money around. #FamilyFun

  9. March 8, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    Renting an apartment sounds like a great idea, something we have never considered. Might be something to look at in the future.

  10. March 8, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    Renting sounds so much better! We’re borrowing a relatives house this year, while she’s on her own holiday, so that should be less stressful. #familyfun

  11. March 8, 2017 / 2:53 pm

    We don’t actually go anywhere at all but you’ve given me loads to think about, I feel like I couldn’t cope if we didn’t have detached lodgings, our little one is loud and we’d be sensitive about ruining someone’s holiday!


  12. March 8, 2017 / 3:23 pm

    We stayed in a hotel for one night when Little H was 3 months old. She went down to sleep at 7pm and I had to stay in the bathroom until bedtime (whilst my husband stayed at his friend’s wedding). After that I declared I would never stay in a hotel whilst Little H was small. We had an unsuccessful trip to Lisbon but the Air BnB we used was great. We’ve also done Center Parcs. We will always rent. I love the sound of the place you went in Murcia so I’m going to book that for when I am brave enough to fly again!

  13. March 8, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    Some great tips. We are hoping to take the grandchildren away this year but I’m not sure I’m confident enough to go abroad lol

  14. March 8, 2017 / 5:05 pm

    We also swear by self-catering houses/private rentals for our family holidays. I hate not having a kitchen – hotels don’t offer that flexibility. And you’re right about the room you get allocated. The family room we once got in an Irish hotel for a wedding only slept 4, while we are a family of six. When we requested a travel cot for the youngest and an extra bed, we were told they don’t do additional beds! We eventually wrangled a second travel cot for our 4 year old, who spent two very cramped nights in a bed far too small for him. I was not impressed!

  15. March 8, 2017 / 6:38 pm

    We’re about to book something for the summer and I was bending towards a hotel – it worked fine with one child but now we’ve got two maybe I’m being optimistic!! #familyfun

  16. Charlene Bhana | High Heels And Fairy Tales
    March 8, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    We’ve not tried this before, but it’s something I’m going to look into. I especially like that the prices are more reasonable! :) #familyfun

  17. March 8, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    We only ever stay in holiday apartments or Airbnbs when we travel. There’s no sense in cramming all three of us into a hotel room when the toddler goes to bed at 7pm! With an apartment, she can have her own room, plus we can prepare our own meals, which is easier when you have a small child and saves on money. #FamilyFun

  18. March 8, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with all this! We haven’t got round to actually staying in a villa yet, but we’re all for the more self-catering end of things. Our holiday of choice at the moment is Eurocamp caravans for many of the same reasons. Separate bedrooms for the kids and a bit of dedicated outside space / detached, etc., but there are still facilities and entertainment. I do hope to try a villa someday soon! #familyfun

  19. March 8, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    I think we will try it in this year because we want to take my husband nieces so it will be a little crowd:)

  20. March 8, 2017 / 9:37 pm

    I don’t know how many hotel rooms we’ve squeezed into before opting for an apartment on our last holiday – but it still wasn’t very spacious. Why I haven’t thought about renting somewhere privately before I don’t know. It sure would be easier doing that.. #familyfun

  21. March 8, 2017 / 9:53 pm

    Totally agree. Last year’s holiday to Portugal in a villa owned by my boss was our best yet. We had SO much space and could do what we wanted when we wanted. It was a real home from home. This year we are going away in this country and despite the fact I will miss the beautiful temperatures of an overseas holiday – I’m secretly pleased I don’t have to contend with airports and hire cars! It’s swings and roundabouts. But you’re right. They are never the same with a child! I have distant memories of hours on the beach and by the pool reading a book in a day! Ahhhh. Memories. Lovely post and thank you for featuring me in #MeetTheFamily this week. #FamilyFunLinky

  22. March 9, 2017 / 12:06 am

    Good advice

    I reckon a lot of parents feel guilty about forcing other holiday goers to listen to the noise their kids make and deal with some of the mess. This might help them relax a bit more knowing they aren’t being a burden to anyone else

  23. March 9, 2017 / 7:56 am

    Great ideas. I’ve never really thought of renting a villa before #FamilyFun

  24. March 9, 2017 / 9:57 am

    We stay in self catering cottages/lodges due to food allergies. Also great for privacy and usually have lots of space for the children to play #coolmumclub

  25. March 9, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    Haven’t been on holiday yet with the little one. But we are booked to go to Turkey in June when Hayden will be 18 months and the new baby about 3 months old. We are going with my in-laws and staying in a private villa, for precisely a lot of the reasons you said. Hopefully it will work out. #coolmumsclub

  26. March 9, 2017 / 8:02 pm

    I always find it a really hard decision, all inclusive (no cooking!) over freedom and all the things you’ve listed. To be honest though, having done a couple of AI holidays with kids, there is just a certain magic lacking when you’re feeling obliged to eat in the damn buffet…again…We’ve sworn next time it’ll be a private rental.
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

  27. March 9, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    Great advice! Agree, there is so much more flexibility and freedom in a pvt rental, both of which you need with kids!

  28. March 10, 2017 / 8:22 pm

    Great tips! We have just started to holiday as a family and this year is the first with four of us so have been reading with interest… #familyfunlinky

  29. March 11, 2017 / 8:00 am

    The only time we have rents a villa is in Florida when i was younger and it was great. We havent braved a holiday abroad year with our 3 but when we do i will definitely be looking at a villa now :) #familyfun xx

  30. March 11, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    It’s interesting reading different views on what makes for the ideal accommodation on holidays. #familyfun

  31. March 11, 2017 / 4:07 pm

    We havent had a villa but do always try and get the most space that we can so that we are not all on top of each other. I’ll check out some of the links as we like our holidays and are always on the look out for different things.



  32. March 13, 2017 / 10:08 am

    Really want to go on holiday now! Holiday blues! Thanks for sharing. #MarvMondays

  33. March 13, 2017 / 10:21 am

    The voice of experience! Sometimes it takes a couple of holidays to get the right format for your family #MarvMondays

  34. March 13, 2017 / 4:11 pm

    With kids a villa is great so everyone has their space as well as being easier to sort little ones out, feeds etc. Thanks for joining #marvmondays

  35. March 13, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    We had a lovely holiday to the same resort in Murcia when our twins were two! We stayed in an apartment equipped for twins we found on baby boltholes. It was an ideal holiday, lovely beaches, seafront strolls, pool and a few places to see. We didn’t make it to Cartagena! Thanks for sharing with #marvmondays

  36. March 14, 2017 / 5:34 pm

    My parents have a villa in Spain so we head there, and totally agree about private rentals being perfect for young kids. Ours has it’s own pool but we’ve been to one with a shared pool too and that’s also fab. #FamilyFun Hope you had a fab holiday xx

  37. March 14, 2017 / 9:23 pm

    I totally agree with you, a private rental is so much easier than a hotel when you have small children! #marvmondays

  38. March 14, 2017 / 9:23 pm

    We usually always do all inclusive but I want to do a private rental in the future for a bit more flexibility. I think like you say you can choose a bit more and it is all so much more flexible and easy! Hubby doesn’t want to cook though so would be eating out a lot!! xx #mravmondays

  39. March 15, 2017 / 6:30 pm

    some great tips and definitely ones ill be trying to remember when booking for something in September.
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  40. March 16, 2017 / 9:22 pm

    Totally with you on this – we look for private rentals or self catering. It is so much easier. However – we have also chosen some fantastic hotels – we had a long weekend here at home on Arran at Auchrannie and upgraded room so baba had her own room meaning we could put her to bed and shut the door and we could chill out, and it had an incredible resource room just two doors down with sink, washing machine etc – totally geared up for families. We’ve also booked into a spa hotel in Portugal for two nights in the middle of a weeks break in an apartment for some luxury! It’s also a family room with a kitchen and lounge area and bedroom separate. Love a travel piece :-) thanks! #MarvMondays

    • Tammymum
      March 16, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      Ooh yes you’re right that is a fab way to do it. We did that recently, booked a private rental but had a few nights in a hotel with a couple bedrooms to house everyone. Where in Portugal are you going it sounds ideal? Thank you for your comment 😊 xx

  41. March 19, 2017 / 8:24 am

    I completely agree. Like you we’ve stayed in hotels and apartments, as well as a caravan last October. We stayed in a caravan last September (with Central heating and double glazing) which felt like a lodge. It was so relaxing having the space. #coolmumclub